Frequently asked Kayaking questions
If your not out to race or circumnavigate any major land masses, any technique will most likely get you from point A to point B. Relax, have fun and get some exercise. To get the most out of your effort make sure your hands are a bit wider than your shoulders and equidistant from each paddle blade.
Most paddle blades are assymetrical. That is, the top edge of the paddle is longer than the bottom edge if you're holding the paddle correctly If there is a brand name written on the paddle and the writing is usually right side up when the paddle is held correctly. Of course, the paddle will still function either way but you get more performance with the longer edge on top. If you hold your paddle and look at the blade that would be down in the water you'll see why. With the longer edge of the blade on top, you get a wider, almost flat bottom of the blade that is underwater. Try it now with the shorter edge on top and the bottom of the blade will come more to a point, not nearly as much pulling surface deeper beneath the surface.
As far as Paddling depth....just bury the blade, doesn't help you any to put additional shaft into the water as well.. .
Hands should be wider than your shoulders. Try it a bit wider still and you may feel like you're getting more power. Paddlers have different paddling techniques. Shorter paddles and bigger blades work better for a more vertical paddling stroke. Kayak racers and whitewater paddlers will use this vertical stroke with paddles designed for it. Sea Kayakers more often use a more relaxed stroke, much more toward the horizontal than the vertical and your blade will likely be a bit narrower or medium width with a slightly different design compared to the paddles designed for the more vertical stroke.
Your lower arm and torso should be generating the pull. Your upper arm should be holding pressure forward (not pulling) which allows you to get leverage....
As you get comfortable you may want to paddle with an offset blade. To set your blade offset for right handed operation, hold your paddle in front of you, push the adjusting button and twist the top of your right hand blade toward you. For left handers twist the top of you left hand blade toward you..
Technique for the offset blade operation is for your dominant hand to remain fixed at all times and the other hand is held loose, to allow the shaft to rotate between every stroke. You'll notice that with the offset blade, the upper blade will always be featherd into any headwind. One thing that is not so noticable is what your arms and elbows are now doing with this stroke. It actually conserves quite a bit of energy to have the one hand fixed, but able to twist at the wrist, while the other hand allows the shaft to rotate freely during the stroke.
You may hear that you should be paddling in a figure eight motion. Actually that is a little confusing, it's a bit tricky to viualize the figure eight the paddle is doing. Hold your paddle out in front and watch your hands as you go through the stroking motion. You should see your hands form a figure eight as they go through the stroke on both sides, especially if you/re using your torso twist.. The paddle follows the pattern that your hands are making which in turn is making a larger figure eight.....
For endurance you'll want to take some of the energy you're expending away from your arms and apply it generating from your torso.
This probably sounds more difficult than it is, but in essence your arms will quickly tire, but with most of your power coming from a torso twist, you could probably paddle continually for most of the day. One way to feel this is to try paddling with your elbows locked out. It feels awkward but the only way the stroke is going to happen is by major twisting at the torso. This quickly shows you what the torso can do. Then add the arm bend back into your stroke but try to feel those arm muscles as now being secondary to the power generated from the torso.
If you're new to this torso twist you will probably feel it and wonder if this is really supposed to be saving energy. The great part is that you are now using more of your body, which is exercising more muscles, and as those larger muscles get used to accepting the load they won't tire out nearly as quickly as your arms would.
Basic Sit on top Kayak Tips
One thing I can add here is not so much about paddling technique but just a couple of basic kayak tips as far as entering and exiting a sit on top kayak. Some people, especially new paddlers have trouble with this and here is what I can offer...
I like to walk the kayak into the water, lean forward, put my weight (on the rails) on my hands, throw one leg across and straddle on any of the narrower kayaks. This keeps my weight centered and as I land in my seat my feet are in the water which gives me a low center of gravity and makes the kayak as stable as it can be.
Some people have a tougher time with this straddling technique and the wider kayaks will make it nearly impossible for some. If you're not comfortable with the straddling, I would walk the kayak out to knee deep, turn your back to the kayak and gently sit toward the center, exiting the kayak is also easier if you get out at knee deep depth and just swing your legs off one side. Entering or exiting the kayak just at the edge of the water (shallow depth or touching bottom) is also an option, just a bit more work.
I wouldn't recommend trying to balance standing on your kayaks, might be fun if you've got the physique and recuperative ability of a ten year old but you'll likely be falling fairly quickly. The are a few boats that it can be possible or even easy. The Ocean Kayak Prowler Big Game is one that is pretty easy. There are a few others. The majority of kayaks, I would say, won't give you much of a chance for anything more than a few seconds of exhilaration before you hit the water or your kayak as the case may be...
Climbing back into the Sit on Top kayak in deep water:
You may end up upside down because your kayak capsized, but here in Hawaii most paddlers are very interested in hopping into the clear water to get a better view of dolphins, turtles or other sea life so climbing back in is a regular event.
If your kayak is upside down: reach across, underneath the kayak, to grab something on the far side rail. Some kayaks have side carry handles, a grab line, or the far side of a backrest works fine. Pull from that far side toward you while simultaneously pushing up on the near side. If you find something to grab on the far side the kayak will flip upright as easy as can be. Just pushing up on the near side will also work on many kayaks but in very windy conditions or with some difficult kayaks it's nice to know how easy it will flip if you reach across, grab, and pull while pushing up.
Climbing back in is really much easier than most people imagine. I've seen up to 300lb persons make it the first time without trouble if they can visualize the concept. First, understand gravity....pulling yourself up out of the water is difficult for most people. Pulling yourself flat along the surface of the water is far easier. If you've been snorkelling and are wearing swimfins, so much the better.
Climbing back in is best accomplished by targeting an area about 3 feet forward of your seat. The three feet is important because when your torso makes it into the kayak, you can now easily roll your bun area rearward directly into your seat. If you tried pulling yourself directy into your seat and now that is where your torso has ended up, you can now roll over and behind your seat or some will now attempt to climb up onto their knees to access the seat. One thing to note is that anytime you get up onto your knees or higher, your center of gravity raises, the kayak becomes more unstable and you may be getting a 2nd chance to practice your deepwater entering technique sooner that you had planned.
Anyway, the basic deepwater entry is to lay flat on the surface, grab the kayak 3 feet in front of your seat, reach one hand across to the far side of the kayak, give a kick and pull your torso across the top of the kayak. Roll your rear rearward and directly into your seat.